Splice (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus had to end the experiment after Adrian Brody got a little too friendly with it
In a scientific endeavour to produce a new protein that could revolutionise medical science, genetic engineers Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) find themselves at a crossroads when their promising project is taken over by their financers and their proposal to use human DNA in their experiments is denied.
Keeping their work a secret, Clive and Elsa splice their research with human DNA just to see if their theory would work. It does and rather than terminating the experiment they allow the creature they’ve created to grow, naming it Dren (Delphine Chanéac) and growing ever more attached to their creation. However with the predatory streak running though Dren growing and her intelligence increasing every day, it’s not long before she wants to live her own life and with her creators being the only thing standing in her way, things are going to get messy.
***SPOILER WARNING***SPOILER WARNING***
I don’t think I can write about my feelings for Splice without the review falling into a full on spoiler write up, so if you’ve not seen the movie yet or don’t want to know the details skip on to the A/V sections.
The first half of Splice is a joy. Good old movie science that echoes real world concerns and delves into the ethics of scientific progression. It’s well paced and has a well handled subject matter, with Brody and Polley giving us two pretty great forward thinking movie scientists. These characters are doing some great science and despite making terrible decisions with very little concern about the protocols around them it all adds up to great drama for a sci-fi movie and it's all very easy to swallow (though the amounts of times they nearly terminate the experiment and don't is ridiculous).
On top of that, the visuals for Dren are astonishing. Nearly everything about this experiment feels real from its birth and right through the accelerated growth. Every stage of Dren’s progression feels genuine and I knew the effects were working well because their realism made me feel a little creeped out.
However, that’s the first half. From about the forty nine minute mark Splice’s solid set up begins to crumble and what was once great science gives away to some shoddy fiction. Our two lead scientists go from careful, secretive risk takers to full blown idiots. Transporting Dren in a cardboard box and taking her outside is bad enough (what did they think was going to happen?), but keeping her in a decrepit old barn is so far away from secure it’s unreal, without the added nonsense of them leaving Dren unwatched to go to work every day.
But it doesn’t stop there. We start getting a feel that Elsa’s childhood might not have been great with an abusive mother and some bad parenting and to make matters worse, super scientist Elsa starts showing traits of this herself towards Dren. This honestly feels like it comes out of nowhere (despite the breadcrumbs laid earlier in the film). To make it even worse Splice throws yet another curveball, having Clive have sex with Dren. That’s right, Adrian Brody’s character not only ends up kissing the goat legged, bald alien looking experiment, but he gets proper into it too on the barn floor. Not once thinking this is wrong on a number of levels. I mean Dren seems like a nice girl (despite the poison tail and the weird screeching noises) and she looks a little bit like Nadine from Girls Aloud but besides the fact he’s a scientist and he knows what she is, he’s sort of her dad too in a roundabout way which make the entire scene feel forced for the sake of entertainment/grossing the audience out as opposed to a genuine plot twist.
Now within all this nonsense going on, I’m still sort of liking the questions raised about the scientific implications of the situation and Elsa’s de-tailing of Dren is a truly disturbing scene, but even if I thought Splice could recover after the sex scene (I have to admit I love the scene where Brody attempts to explain what happened. I mean, what do you say in that situation really?) the story takes another turn and rather than dealing with the problems at hand, jumps ship and heads for a full on movie monster finale.
Dren seemingly dies and comes back as an over aggressive male. Clive and Elsa go chasing after it, there’s a frickin’ terrible moment where Clive drops his lamp in a lake and getting it back becomes a bigger concern than anything the character has been through for the last eighty minutes just for the sake of an obvious “Dren’s in the water” scare and then to keep the drama going there’s a scene that's literally only there to make a sequel possible (I won’t go into it because I’ve already detailed enough) but by this stage I just didn't care anymore. It all felt too much like Species 2 for me and I zoned out.
I watched Splice, on this second viewing just to see if my initial thoughts on the movie stuck and they really did. I think the first half is brilliant. I believe in these characters and their research and I want to see them pushing the limits of science to their fullest. Their attitude seems great in the realms of movie science and the depiction of their creation is fantastic. However, what starts as good sci-fi ends in bad horror and Splice’s DNA ended up full of nonsense.
With the tone of the movie having a cold blue/green tint to it there’s barely a natural colour on show, but when they come (mostly in the barn scenes) the transfer can look pretty great. Blacks are deep, colours pop well and the details in the stickier scenes look pretty great.
The image can feel pretty soft in places, especially in wider shots and the special effects look solid for the most part. Generally speaking the transfer is good—there were a few scenes where I noticed some dancing grain but it was pretty minor and while it’s not the best DVD transfer I’ve seen, it does a good job overall.
There’s not too much going on across the ninety minutes but the audio for Splice has its moments. With dialogue, everything remains consistent. The odd clever sound effects like bursting pipes or flapping wings come with a punchy bit of bass and a good use of the surround speakers, all adding to the jumps here and there.
On a downside though, the mix suffers in a few scenes where music is playing. The science montage early on in the film has a bit of dance and jazz music keeping the pace going but this element feels a little lost in the mix and when the dialogue comes in, it highlights the weakness further.
Other than that, the rest of the track is fine. There’s the odd spike of excitement but it really comes down to selling the sound effects and dialogue and Splice gets the job done, even if it’s without bells and whistles.
Kicking off the extras is a interview with director Vincenzo Natali (24:57). This more than makes up for the lack of commentary and has the director telling us of the story's inspiration and how we'd be surprised about how close it is to reality—he also hints about how some of it is close to his own experiences (all I kept thinking of is that he might have slept with a cloned animal and that's why the Brody sex scene was so intense).
'A Directors Playground' (32:09) is a good lengthy featurette focusing on the director and the making of the movie. There's plenty of on-set footage and to level it off there's 'Behind the Scenes' (33:14) which is more cast and crew interview heavy, so combining the two extras there's a pretty detailed making of. Also rounding off the package is the trailer (01:51).
I want to like Splice, really I do. It's solid sci-fi goodness for the most part, but the second half just chips away at my enjoyment until I'm left with one big eye rolling motion towards the movie as a whole.
The disc looks and sounds good and has a great set of extras, so fans should be happy with the release but try as I might, I can't quite count myself as one after my two viewings of this flawed sci-fi movie.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 29th November 2010
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Dgitial 5.1 English, Dolby Stereo 2.0 English
Subtitles: English HOH
Extras: Director Interview, Featuette, Behind the Scenes, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Cast: Adrien Brody , Sarah Polley, Delphine Chanéac
Genre: Drama, Horror and Thriller
Length: 99 minutes
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